Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
ataridave

What computers were 2600 games programmed on in the late 1980s?

Recommended Posts

I know that PDP-11s were used in the late 1970s, but by the late 1980s, I'm really curious as to what computers Atari 2600 game programmers were using?  PCs, Macs, or something else?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an incredibly varied question. I have answered this before on this board, do some searching.

 

But basically, any computer, with a 6502 assembler, a text editor, and at the very least, an EPROM programmer, with an appropriately wired cartridge could have been used as a development system.

 

Nice to haves:

 

* A romulator (RAM on a cartridge, with ability to latch data into it via parallel or serial port, or via writing into shared memory area on computer bus)

* a logic analyzer (to catch hard to find bugs, especially if the analyzer has a decent trace history, a la HP 1611)

* an Atari 800 for graphics editing (otherwise, it's graph paper)

 

etc.

 

This is a hard question to nail down, because this was a period of time in which the VCS's third party market was literally pried open by Activision winning a pivotal court case against Atari. There were no development tools given by the first party vendor, so you literally had to fashion your own. Thankfully the VCS is a simple enough system that with a bit of brain grease, you can cobble SOMETHING together with what you may have lying around...

 

today, things are so much simpler:

 

* Stella has the best VCS debugger on planet earth.

* web platforms like 8bitworkshop.com give you a real time assembly and display, so you can literally mold display kernels in real time.

* fast cross-assembly times (fractions of a second)

* bigger and badder co-processors and bus stuffing techniques to increase display fidelity

* more memory available via bank-switching

etc.

 

-Thom

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm going to guess an IBM PC.  Compatibles were relatively inexpensive by the late 1980s.  Their expansion slots let you interface directly with a ram cartridge.  And you can use it for word processing and spreadsheets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/14/2019 at 10:48 PM, mr_me said:

I'm going to guess an IBM PC.  Compatibles were relatively inexpensive by the late 1980s.  Their expansion slots let you interface directly with a ram cartridge.  And you can use it for word processing and spreadsheets.

Some did use an IBM PC with a homemade romulator. Doug Neubauer, for example did this when programming Solaris.

 

Another common setup was an Apple II with a romulator, a commercial romulator/prom setup was the Frob, which consisted of a language card replacement that provided shared RAM that could be written into directly. So you could e.g. assemble in Merlin directly to RAM, and then turn on the VCS to test.

 

The Frob had a lot of other little bits to it too, like a EPROM programmer, for making prototype carts.

 

-Thom

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the late 80's Atari Corp. used ST computers for their SDKs, it's a cable that plugs in the cart slots of both the ST and the 2600/7800 and a cross assembler.  In fact the Tramiels used the STs for alot of things in their company including replacements for VAX terminals.

 

It probably explains why people who made 7800 games also made 2600 versions...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, frankodragon said:

 

Hard to tell by the quality of this video but one of them could be an Atari computer for graphics.

I'll look, but even if I don't find anything, thank you so much for posting this video!  I LOVE learning about the history of the gaming industry!  I think this video was made in 1982.  Good grief, I was 5 years old!  My older brother and I got a 2600 for Christmas that year.

Edited by ataridave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, MrMaddog said:

In the late 80's Atari Corp. used ST computers for their SDKs, it's a cable that plugs in the cart slots of both the ST and the 2600/7800 and a cross assembler.  In fact the Tramiels used the STs for alot of things in their company including replacements for VAX terminals.

 

It probably explains why people who made 7800 games also made 2600 versions...

Was the ST being used as a VAX terminal or were they replacing the VAX with personal computers?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/17/2019 at 10:35 AM, mr_me said:

Was the ST being used as a VAX terminal or were they replacing the VAX with personal computers?

 

The terminal, they used a plug in VT100 cart...

 

C95lLNRWAAEqtGz.jpg

Edited by MrMaddog
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/16/2019 at 10:56 AM, tschak909 said:

Doug Neubauer, for example did this when programming Solaris.

 

...such a great game. Totally blew me away when I was younger.

 

If I'm not mistaken, the planet graphics were re-used in another game too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/16/2019 at 12:16 PM, MrMaddog said:

In the late 80's Atari Corp. used ST computers for their SDKs, it's a cable that plugs in the cart slots of both the ST and the 2600/7800 and a cross assembler.  In fact the Tramiels used the STs for alot of things in their company including replacements for VAX terminals.

 

It probably explains why people who made 7800 games also made 2600 versions...

did not know this.. you would have thought that Ataris would have been used to develop for Ataris but seems like that wasnt the case much.. Nice to find out about ST's being part of the dev mix.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/21/2019 at 6:32 PM, doctor_x said:

did not know this.. you would have thought that Ataris would have been used to develop for Ataris but seems like that wasnt the case much.. Nice to find out about ST's being part of the dev mix.

You mean Atari 8-bits?  I remember seeing a segment on PM Magazine where Games By Apollo used an Atari 800 to make their games.  Not hard to use a 6502 Assembler on any 8-bit micro and shoot the object code to the 2600.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKRBMs9NZ1Y

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to read how some late ColecoVision/2600 cross-platform games were made on the Adam, I hope that article isn't liked behind a paywall and is still available. 



Of course a modified internal Adam with more ram.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sure would be fun to program a 2600 game on an IBM PC!

I'm not sure, but my money is on the Atari 8 bits computers. I guess it's the most similar thing to the 2600 that is powerful enough to code a 2600 game on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can use any computer with an appropriate 6502 assembler.

 

VCS games are headerless, so you just need to output an appropriate binary, typically ORG'ed at $F000, with the last 6 bytes filled in appropriately so the 6502 can RESET. The interrupt and nmi lines are not connected, so they can simply be ignored, however IRQ can be abused to point to a routine that needs to execute as quickly as possible (triggered by a BRK instruction).

 

-Thom

Edited by tschak909
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...